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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPicture Of Dorian Gray - Chapter IV: 32-36
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Picture Of Dorian Gray - Chapter IV: 32-36 Post by :dpd1998 Category :Long Stories Author :Oscar Wilde Date :June 2011 Read :1468

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Picture Of Dorian Gray - Chapter IV: 32-36

Chapter IV: 32-36


(...32) "I suppose you have heard the news, Basil?" said Lord Henry
on the following evening, as Hallward was shown into a little private
room at the Bristol where dinner had been laid for three.

"No, Harry," answered Hallward, giving his hat and coat to the bowing
waiter. "What is it? Nothing about politics, I hope? They don't
interest me. There is hardly a single person in the House of Commons
worth painting; though many of them would be the better for a little
whitewashing."

"Dorian Gray is engaged to be married," said Lord Henry, watching him
as he spoke.

Hallward turned perfectly pale, and a curious look flashed for a
moment into his eyes, and then passed away, leaving them dull."
Dorian engaged to be married!" he cried. "Impossible!"

"It is perfectly true."

"To whom?"

"To some little actress or other."

"I can't believe it. Dorian is far too sensible."

"Dorian is far too wise not to do foolish things now and then, my
dear Basil."

"Marriage is hardly a thing that one can do now and then, Harry,"
said Hallward, smiling.

"Except in America. But I didn't say he was married. I said he was
engaged to be married. There is a great difference. I have a
distinct remembrance of being married, but I have no recollection at
all of being engaged. I am inclined to think that I never was
engaged."

"But think of Dorian's birth, and position, and wealth. It would be
absurd for him to marry so much beneath him."

"If you want him to marry this girl, tell him that, Basil. He is
sure to do it then. Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing,
it is always from the noblest motives."

"I hope the girl is good, Harry. I don't want to see Dorian tied to
some vile creature, who might degrade his nature and ruin his
intellect."

"Oh, she is more than good--she is beautiful," murmured Lord Henry,
sipping a glass of vermouth and orange-bitters. "Dorian says she is
beautiful; and he is not often wrong about things of that kind. (33)
Your portrait of him has quickened his appreciation of the personal
appearance of other people. It has had that excellent effect, among
others. We are to see her to-night, if that boy doesn't forget his
appointment."

"But do you approve of it, Harry?" asked Hallward, walking up and
down the room, and biting his lip. "You can't approve of it, really.
It is some silly infatuation."

"I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd
attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air
our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people
say, and I never interfere with what charming people do. If a
personality fascinates me, whatever the personality chooses to do is
absolutely delightful to me. Dorian Gray falls in love with a
beautiful girl who acts Shakespeare, and proposes to marry her. Why
not? If he wedded Messalina he would be none the less interesting.
You know I am not a champion of marriage. The real drawback to
marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are
colorless. They lack individuality. Still, there are certain
temperaments that marriage makes more complex. They retain their
egotism, and add to it many other egos. They are forced to have more
than one life. They become more highly organized. Besides, every
experience is of value, and, whatever one may say against marriage,
it is certainly an experience. I hope that Dorian Gray will make
this girl his wife, passionately adore her for six months, and then
suddenly become fascinated by some one else. He would be a wonderful
study."

"You don't mean all that, Harry; you know you don't. If Dorian
Gray's life were spoiled, no one would be sorrier than yourself. You
are much better than you pretend to be."

Lord Henry laughed. "The reason we all like to think so well of
others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of
optimism is sheer terror. We think that we are generous because we
credit our neighbor with those virtues that are likely to benefit
ourselves. We praise the banker that we may overdraw our account,
and find good qualities in the highwayman in the hope that he may
spare our pockets. I mean everything that I have said. I have the
greatest contempt for optimism. And as for a spoiled life, no life
is spoiled but one whose growth is arrested. If you want to mar a
nature, you have merely to reform it. But here is Dorian himself.
He will tell you more than I can."

"My dear Harry, my dear Basil, you must both congratulate me!" said
the boy, throwing off his evening cape with its satin-lined wings,
and shaking each of his friends by the hand in turn. "I have never
been so happy. Of course it is sudden: all really delightful things
are. And yet it seems to me to be the one thing I have been looking
for all my life." He was flushed with excitement and pleasure, and
looked extraordinarily handsome.

"I hope you will always be very happy, Dorian," said Hallward, "but I
don't quite forgive you for not having let me know of your
engagement. You let Harry know."

"And I don't forgive you for being late for dinner," broke in Lord
(34) Henry, putting his hand on the lad's shoulder, and smiling as he
spoke. "Come, let us sit down and try what the new chef here is
like, and then you will tell us how it all came about."

"There is really not much to tell," cried Dorian, as they took their
seats at the small round table. "What happened was simply this.
After I left you yesterday evening, Harry, I had some dinner at that
curious little Italian restaurant in Rupert Street, you introduced me
to, and went down afterwards to the theatre. Sibyl was playing
Rosalind. Of course the scenery was dreadful, and the Orlando
absurd. But Sibyl! You should have seen her! When she came on in
her boy's dress she was perfectly wonderful. She wore a moss-colored
velvet jerkin with cinnamon sleeves, slim brown cross-gartered hose,
a dainty little green cap with a hawk's feather caught in a jewel,
and a hooded cloak lined with dull red. She had never seemed to me
more exquisite. She had all the delicate grace of that Tanagra
figurine that you have in your studio, Basil. Her hair clustered
round her face like dark leaves round a pale rose. As for her
acting--well, you will see her to-night. She is simply a born
artist. I sat in the dingy box absolutely enthralled. I forgot that
I was in London and in the nineteenth century. I was away with my
love in a forest that no man had ever seen. After the performance
was over I went behind, and spoke to her. As we were sitting
together, suddenly there came a look into her eyes that I had never
seen there before. My lips moved towards hers. We kissed each
other. I can't describe to you what I felt at that moment. It
seemed to me that all my life had been narrowed to one perfect point
of rose-colored joy. She trembled all over, and shook like a white
narcissus. Then she flung herself on her knees and kissed my hands.
I feel that I should not tell you all this, but I can't help it. Of
course our engagement is a dead secret. She has not even told her
own mother. I don't know what my guardians will say. Lord Radley is
sure to be furious. I don't care. I shall be of age in less than a
year, and then I can do what I like. I have been right, Basil,
haven't I, to take my love out of poetry, and to find my wife in
Shakespeare's plays? Lips that Shakespeare taught to speak have
whispered their secret in my ear. I have had the arms of Rosalind
around me, and kissed Juliet on the mouth."

"Yes, Dorian, I suppose you were right," said Hallward, slowly.

"Have you seen her to-day?" asked Lord Henry.

Dorian Gray shook his head. "I left her in the forest of Arden, I
shall find her in an orchard in Verona."

Lord Henry sipped his champagne in a meditative manner. "At what
particular point did you mention the word marriage, Dorian? and what
did she say in answer? Perhaps you forgot all about it."

"My dear Harry, I did not treat it as a business transaction, and I
did not make any formal proposal. I told her that I loved her, and
she said she was not worthy to be my wife. Not worthy! Why, the
whole world is nothing to me compared to her."

"Women are wonderfully practical," murmured Lord Henry,--"much more
practical than we are. In situations of that kind we often forget to
say anything about marriage, and they always remind us."

(35) Hallward laid his hand upon his arm. "Don't, Harry. You have
annoyed Dorian. He is not like other men. He would never bring
misery upon any one. His nature is too fine for that."

Lord Henry looked across the table. "Dorian is never annoyed with
me," he answered. "I asked the question for the best reason
possible, for the only reason, indeed, that excuses one for asking
any question,--simple curiosity. I have a theory that it is always
the women who propose to us, and not we who propose to the women,
except, of course, in middle-class life. But then the middle classes
are not modern."

Dorian Gray laughed, and tossed his head. "You are quite
incorrigible, Harry; but I don't mind. It is impossible to be angry
with you. When you see Sibyl Vane you will feel that the man who
could wrong her would be a beast without a heart. I cannot
understand how any one can wish to shame what he loves. I love Sibyl
Vane. I wish to place her on a pedestal of gold, and to see the
world worship the woman who is mine. What is marriage? An
irrevocable vow. And it is an irrevocable vow that I want to take.
Her trust makes me faithful, her belief makes me good. When I am
with her, I regret all that you have taught me. I become different
from what you have known me to be. I am changed, and the mere touch
of Sibyl Vane's hand makes me forget you and all your wrong,
fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories."

"You will always like me, Dorian," said Lord Henry. "Will you have
some coffee, you fellows?--Waiter, bring coffee, and fine-champagne,
and some cigarettes. No: don't mind the cigarettes; I have some.--
Basil, I can't allow you to smoke cigars. You must have a cigarette.
A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is
exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can you want?--
Yes, Dorian, you will always be fond of me. I represent to you all
the sins you have never had the courage to commit."

"What nonsense you talk, Harry!" cried Dorian Gray, lighting his
cigarette from a fire-breathing silver dragon that the waiter had
placed on the table. "Let us go down to the theatre. When you see
Sibyl you will have a new ideal of life. She will represent
something to you that you have never known."

"I have known everything," said Lord Henry, with a sad look in his
eyes, "but I am always ready for a new emotion. I am afraid that
there is no such thing, for me at any rate. Still, your wonderful
girl may thrill me. I love acting. It is so much more real than
life. Let us go. Dorian, you will come with me.--I am so sorry,
Basil, but there is only room for two in the brougham. You must
follow us in a hansom."

They got up and put on their coats, sipping their coffee standing.
Hallward was silent and preoccupied. There was a gloom over him. He
could not bear this marriage, and yet it seemed to him to be better
than many other things that might have happened. After a few
moments, they all passed down-stairs. He drove off by himself, as
had been arranged, and watched the flashing lights of the little
brougham in front of him. A strange sense of loss came over him.
(36) He felt that Dorian Gray would never again be to him all that he
had been in the past. His eyes darkened, and the crowded flaring
streets became blurred to him. When the cab drew up at the doors of
the theatre, it seemed to him that he had grown years older.

Content of Chapter IV: 32-36 (Oscar Wilde's novel: Picture of Dorian Gray)

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